When Your Sewing Machine Needs to go to the Spa

Well, I finally broke my machine.

Actually, I’m not sure I did anything wrong.  I just changed thread colors during an embroidery, started the machine up again and WHOA.  Needle broke and gears of death appeared.

It’s all OK.  I cleaned everything out and could only find 2 pieces of the needle.  A tiny tip is missing.  Normally I can set everything back to normal and just continue, but I think that little needle tip is scraping somewhere, so off to the tech we went.

Tech Update for Bernina 7 Series Owners

I chatted with my new tech for a while and told him about my machine issue.  He asked me if I knew that we were not supposed to oil in the top reservoir any more.

I did not know that.  I had heard some buzzing…questions from customers around the time the shop I previously worked for was closing.  However, we had not received any definitive information from Bernina at that time.

So here’s the deal:

–If you own a 7 Series, DO NOT put oil in the red-ringed reservoir under the stitch plate.

–DO oil the two felt pads in the hook and around the outside of the hook.

Heirloom Creations has a nice video showing and explaining this.

It’s important to know about this change.  If you purchased your machine longer than 6-7 months or so ago, you were likely taught to fill that red reservoir, and keep it filled.

The tech told me that too much oil was spreading, not only into the hook but also getting into the auto-thread cutter, and pieces of felt were working their way into the mix as well. I remember our tech at the store showing me how the machine looked with the thread cutter pulled out and oil getting on everything. At that time we had not heard the official “fix” from Bernina. Now it’s here.

With that resolved, I now have an embroidery design that’s not complete.

See those cute little flower buttons?  They are supposed to be embroidery.  Luckily, my “breakdown” occurred in a convenient place, and I think I can just add those flowers instead of embroidery.  Not exactly perfect, but it’s effective and I think it will work.

I’ll share the rest of the project as I get further along.

I’m determined to THINK SPRING. It has to get here eventually, right?

In the meantime, of course I have another sewing machine that I can use to continue piecing my quilt project. And it won’t hurt for my larger machine to be in the spa for a bit.

What’s Happening in Machine Embroidery?

I’ve been scrounging around on my machine embroidery sites looking for the most interesting projects and new ideas.  I’ve found that with machine embroidery, there’s always a new way to do something that’s been around awhile, or an old way to do something very fresh.

We have snow on the ground here this April, but I just KNOW that spring will get here eventually.  So I focused my search on all things inspirational for spring.

Enjoy!

Embroidery Library

Although they always have new product, I found their Garden Party Lookbook to be charming and full of spring-like ideas. You’ll want to check out all their lookbooks.  But the Garden Party book had an interesting technique (something I hadn’t seen before) for embroidering on straw hats.

 

Embroidery Design Studio

They are featuring a strong graphic spring collection called Grow Love. These cute little flowers and butterflies would be great on jeans or anything denim.  They also have their washaway stabilizers on sale through April 13.  If you are someone who loves freestanding lace (which I’m thinking about for Halloween) now’s the time to stock up on Aquamesh.

 

Urban Threads

So the big trend I’ve seen lately and it’s reflected quite a bit at Urban Threads is embroidery on garments everywhere.  Jeans up and down the legs, t-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, everything.  This trend extends far beyond just the embroidery world.  The newest Dolce and Cabbana runway collection is just loaded with over-sized, all-over embroidery.  The kitschy-er, the better.  Urban Threads has some great examples in their Fashion Look book.  But it’s everywhere.

 

Kreations by Kara

OK, I was drawn to these lovely purple flowers in her sale bin.  I need them along the hemline of a summer skirt.  Wouldn’t that be lovely?

 

Kimberbell

Kimberbell, if you’re not familiar, is a wholesale design distributor. Their store locator is actually pretty accurate so feel free to use that to find a dealer near you.

Their products are always cheerful and sometimes over the top for me, but I fell in love with the designs on Hello Sunshine quilt. The quilt itself is a bit much at the moment, but who can live without the charming bike design, the mason jars, the watermelon?  Not me. I bought the collection and am already laying out something for a wall hanging for this spring/summer.

 

I recognize this list is not comprehensive, just a little tour to get your creative juices flowing about machine embroidery again.  I hope you find something that inspires you to dust off that embroidery module and rev it up for spring!

Old World Re-Discovery

I re-discovered a layer cake (10 x 10 in.) of this fabric from Moda that had been hiding in my fabric stash for a decade. Not exaggerating.  I no longer know the name of the collection. I tried to find more of it online, and it’s basically unavailable.

Now, like many of you, I have stashes of fabric that just don’t interest me any more. Sometimes I look at something I own, and wonder what in the world I was thinking. It’s dated or seasonal, or, heaven forbid, it was trendy and had a shelf-life of about 15 minutes.

But that’s the stuff I give away.  And, frankly, over the last few years, I’ve done quite a bit of giving away.

But this Old World fabric (that’s the name I’ve given it), is still fabulous.  Every time I look at it I think of Europe, of Jane Austen, of carriage rides and chats by a fireside, and afternoon tea..and maybe a croissant.

I still love it.

And so I recently found a pattern that’s perfect.

That’s a picture of the pattern on the cover of Miss Rosie’s Farmhouse Favorites. While it’s not a complicated quilt, it’s not terribly simple either.  Especially since the pattern calls for fatquarters and all the cutting instructions are tailored for that. As usual, I am switching out colors and modifying the instructions to accommodate the fabric I have and not what is called for in the pattern.

I have been cutting for days.

And I’m still not done as many of the squares will end up cut into quarter and half square triangles.

Still, because I fall in love with these fabrics anew each time I look at them, I am willing to start a project without thinking about how many hours it will take me to complete.

It’s like having a baby. Whatever you do, don’t think about how much it will cost or the hours of your life you will spend devoted to that project.  Don’t think about diapers or doctors’ visits, or bumps on the head, or homework, or cub scouts (or girl scouts) or spills on the sofa or orthodontic appointments or puberty or girlfriends or boyfriends or college exams.  Don’t think about the worry, the tears, the laughter, the arguments, the sleepless nights, the unexpected hugs.

It’s all just process.

And when we think too hard about it, we end up doing nothing at all.

So for today, I will enjoy.  And after all that cutting, I can finally start to sew.

Seeing Life Through a New Lens

No one uses actual cameras any more, they just don’t.  I know. Why would you? Everyone is armed with a phone with a camera and instant video. A modern luxury or curse, depending on how you look at it.

I was one of the last people to switch from a film camera to digital, and even then, I would not make the switch until Canon delivered a DSLR. (Digital Single Lens Reflex.)

To me, nothing is more satisfying than the mechanical “click” of a 35 mm.

This changed the world for me.  Finally, I could shoot digitally, and get the kind of quality I had grown to love from my Canon. (My first 35mm was given to me as a high school graduation gift by my parents…specifically my Dad, who loved photography, and shot with what is now considered a vintage 35 mm Leica from Germany. Somewhere in this house, I still have that camera. Don’t make me look for it now.)

But the new DSLR meant I could also still live in the world of lenses — zoom, standard, and wide angle.

I recently bought the lens of my dreams.

For those of you who are photo savvy, it’s 180mm, f/3.5 Macro USM.

It’s magic.

It lays pixie dust on everything in its frame.

It’s designed for macro photography….so flowers, jewelry, nature.

I ran around the house and started taking pics of ordinary items, watching them become extraordinary.

Now this particular lens does not have image stabilization.  That’s $$$$$. So I must use it with a tri-pod. But what fun.

Here’s a little sample. I can’t wait to use it for more. Everything in the world is a small miracle if you look closely enough.

Yellow Valdani.

Red Valdani.

Emerging daffodils.

Dormant hens and chicks.

Silk flowers in the house.

Ginger Peach tea.

More daffodils.

 

 

 

The Zen of Mindless Sewing

Cake Mix Recipe, Layer Cake Mix, ModaIf you’ve never used one of these Cake Mix Recipe packets, you’re missing out on one of the most relaxing ways to sew.

All you need to begin is:

  • 10 in. layer cake of 42 squares, various colors
  • 10 in. layer cake of background fabric, all the same color. (Option:  2 – 10 in. layer cakes of background grunge fabric.  They normally come 20 squares in a packet, so you’ll need at least 2 packages.  I then purchased another fatquarter so that I had a total of 42 squares.)
  • Your choice of any 10 in. Cake Mix Recipe from Miss Rosie’s Quilt Co.

You can see above, that I chose to use a Tula Pink layer cake…lots of bold colors, paired with a Moda grunge that was very neutral.

All you need to do is layer one brightly colored 10 in. square against one neutral, right sides together.  Then just take one sheet from the recipe pad and follow the dotted lines when sewing.

Don’t forget to decrease your stitch length.  I lowered mine to 1.60. This makes the paper easy to perforate when you pull it off.  If you’ve ever used Thangles in a past life, this will all seem familiar.

But here’s where it gets relaxing.

Friends, you do not have to worry about perfection, except to follow the lines. Your paper can be slightly off center. If you’ve ever used layer cakes you know that no two manufacturers cut them exactly the same way, so they never exactly match up.  But it doesn’t matter. You have a good 1/2 – 3/4 of an inch all the way around as excess. It all gets trimmed off.  Just get it close to layered correctly and don’t worry. Follow the arrows, sew on the dotted lines, cut on the solid lines.  That’s it!

With these Cake Mix Recipes, you’re working entirely with half square triangles.

When cutting, if you have a rotating cutting mat, that really helps, so I would recommend using one. But here’s another little tip:  Use one of these clover rollers instead of pressing with an iron.

I fell in love with this little baby a while ago when I was making 1/2 in. half square triangles.  Yeah. 1/2 inch. Try pressing that.  Anyway, the tool works best when you are pressing only one seam open…perfect for this task, and any half square triangles.

As usual, I’m not sure where this is headed.  My chosen blocks will look like this, and I’ll just have to wait until I get more done to see how it comes together.  But that’s the fun of it, right?

I don’t have to think much.  I just sew sew sew.

Eventually, it all comes together.  Just like everything else in life.

Mindfulness gets a lot of press these days.

But sometimes, over-thinking is over-rated.

Free Spirit Has Been Acquired

Tula Pink just announced on her Instagram page that Free Spirit Fabrics has been acquired in its entirety by a new parent company.

This would mean that all the designers will still be under the “Free Spirit” umbrella.

The parent company appears to be Jaftex.

They also own Studio e Fabrics, Henry Glass and Co,. and several other brand names.

This announcement would be great news for the designers, and Tula Pink seems very excited. It remains to be seen if there will be any interruption in distribution of the fabric lines.

It cam e together remarkably quickly.

Here’s a link to one of the Jaftex owners’ blog.

I Want to Live in a Sundance Catalog

I want to live there.  I want to live in a world where I am about 6 feet tall.  I want to pause elegantly on a cobblestone street and smile mysteriously at nothing in particular.

I want to always have a bouquet of flowers in my hands or in the background of my earnest gaze, filling my world with color. I just paused for a moment, maybe to listen to a sweetly singing bird, while I gather fresh vegetables and fresh flowers at the Saturday morning outdoor market. In Guatemala.

My clothes are all embroidered. Not in a kitschy way, but in a swingy, carefree Boho jumble of flowers —  on my jeans, my shirts, my belts, and yes, on my shoes.  I have just the right amount of bangles and baubles. Not too many, but always enough to make you think that I’m never seen without a perfect accessory. Turqoise is my fave, but basically anything with a piece of leather attached to it will do.

Welcome to my home, where even the easy chair has a touch of colorful embroidery.  The quilt on my bed is hand-stitched, makes no difference who made it or where. Don’t envy my iron accessories or rough-hewn wood furniture. It all just flew in through the mountainous/desert/woodsy scene out the window where it was created naturally by the forces of nature, and simply appeared on the weathered Uzbekistan rug.

It’s time for me to grab my jaunty, fringed, leather bag and head out to meet my friend in the mountains.  He’s a lumberjack, with one day’s worth of beard.  He and his friends are busy chopping logs in front of the cabin where we all gather to wander in the snow wearing textured sweaters, bulky cabled hats and scarves and heavily embellished fingerless gloves.

I must enjoy the moment. Before long, I’ll be off to the beach, taking my melancholy barefoot stroll, sandals in hand, gauzey, fluttery sundress and waves rolling in behind me.

Sigh.

I want to live in a sundance catalog.

Where everything and everyone is aesthetically beautiful. And no one is grieving or devastated or angry.

And the biggest question of the day is whether to put my hands in my pocket or lean against the warm stone wall with the sun shining down and the bougainvillea framing my view.

 

Where is This Sewing Machine Made?

Oh no.

As someone who sold high end sewing machines for over 8 years, this was a dreaded question. Not because I didn’t know the answer or was embarrassed by the answer. Not at all.  It was because I had seen so many people have a visceral, and frankly, uneducated and ignorant reaction to the answer.

So I am dedicating this blog to facts. A great deal of misinformation, speculation and gossip is available on sewing boards and even wikipedia. I contacted the most well-known brand names myself, and even checked Bloomberg to get these answers and to help anyone understand the dynamics in play here.  I want you to be educated and informed about your purchasing decisions.  Not angry and emotional.

Let me start by saying this much:

No sewing machine currently in production is made in the USA. None. Nada. Zero. Zilch. Not now, not recently, and, likely, not anytime soon.

This is not about politics. This is about economics.  While I do not have access to manufacturing costs, I do understand dealer margins and exactly what goes into the research, development, and manufacturing of these products. You love your dealer and want them to stay in business? They have to make money.  The manufacturer has to make money.  The distributors have to make money. The people contracted by the manufacturer have to make money (including all those in marketing, customer service, etc.). You pay for all of this.

So where are they made?

Here’s the clearest breakdown.  I asked the top brands through customer service on their website a.) Where are your sewing machines manufactured? and b.) Where is your US Headquarters and what functions take place there?  These are my answers:

Bernina:

Their international headquarters is in Steckborn Switzerland.  They still manufacture there, but only the very highest end machines. The B880, the Q20 and Q24 are made in Switzerland.  Bernina is the only sewing machine manufacturer that still produces machines in what is considered the “west.” – in Switzerland. They also own Brewer and OESD embroidery.

All the rest of their regular line Bernina machines are produced in a Bernina plant in Lamphun Thailand, built in 1990. It is important to note that this plant is owned and operated by Bernina.  Here’s a great video.  Dealers from the US have visited there.  The local employees have free lunch and air conditioning.

Bernina’s US Headquarters is located in Aurora IL.  It serves as the US distribution center, and also handles marketing, tech issues, software customer service, education, etc.

Full disclosure: I know more about Bernina than the others because those were the machines I sold. And I own several of them.

Baby Lock:

Baby lock is a brand name owned by Tacony, a huge US corporation that also owns Nancy’s Notions, Koala Cabinets, Amazing Designs embroidery, vacuum cleaners and other home products. In response to my request, I promptly received an email from the Assistant General Manager of Baby Lock in Japan, where their International headquarters is located.  He tells me that Baby Lock sewing machines are manufactured in Taiwan, Vietnam, China and Thailand. Baby Lock sergers are MOSTLY made in Japan, where they own a number of factories.  According to the company, a couple of serger models (I don’t know which ones) are made in Taiwan.

They don’t technically have a US headquarters. Tacony is their US wholesale distributor and they are located in Fenton Missouri.

Viking/Husqvaqrna/Pfaff/Singer

All of the above brand names are now under one corporation: SVP Worldwide.  Their customer service response is that most of their machines are made in China.  Singer responded separately and stated that their machines are made in Brazil, China, Taiwan and Vietnam.

SVP Worldwide’s US headquarters is located in LaVergne Tennessee.  Here they handle dealer relations, customer service and software support.

An interesting note: Worldwide headquarters for SVP Worldwide is located in Hamilton Bermuda. (Not exactly the Cayman Islands, but same result…far less taxes. Shrewd?  Dishonest?  That’s for you to decide, but at least you know.)

Janome

Janome International headquarters is located in Japan, where they have 3 Janome-owned factories.  Their website clearly states that they manufacture their machines in Japan, Taiwan and Thailand.

Their US headquarters is located in Mahwah, New Jersey. This is where they handle dealer relations, education and customer service. They have a nice video about their Japanese factories on their website.

Brother

I had the most difficulty contacting anyone from Brother US. Keep in mind that Brother International creates printers, fax machines, industrial sewing machines and garment printers and lots more. Their customer service line left me on hold for over 20 minutes in the middle of the day, when I called their US Headquarters located in Bridgewater, New Jersey. (Prior to that I went through rounds and rounds of automated answering prompts. NOT FUN.)

I finally called a local sewing dealership that sells Brother home and professional machines.  All they could tell me is that the machines are made in “the Orient.”

Wikipedia says China, Taiwan and Vietnam. They are widely known to share the same vendors as Baby Lock, but I cannot confirm anything from the corporation itself.

What’s the Conclusion?

Here’s my advice:  Do your homework. Research not only the features of the machines, but where they originate and how they’re made.  Lean on your local dealers. If they handle multiple brands of machines, ask them who is the easiest to work with, the most responsive. If they have the machines on hand, ask to see the original box. It must always be labeled with country of origin.  I welcome corrections or additional information.

If you work for any of these organizations, and have more detail, you can contact me at carol@edgestitch.com.

And if any of this gets you worked up, don’t even think about researching your food.

You don’t ever want to know.

 

Free Spirit Fabrics is Shutting Down

UPDATE: PLEASE READ THE UPDATE. FREE SPIRIT HAS BEEN ACQUIRED.

Free Spirit/Westminster Fabrics announced yesterday to their designers that they will no longer be distributing fabric.

This includes some big name designers:  Tula Pink, Kaffe Fassett, Amy Butler, Anna Maria Horner and Denyse Schmidt.

What does this mean for us, as consumers?

Well if you are fans of these designers, their future products are currently up in the air. Free Spirit says they will take orders from quilt shops through May 31, so likely this is everything shown to shop owners at Quilt Market this past fall. This just goes to show how far in advance the pipeline is for fabrics. Products that stores are ordering right now are already in the works overseas…commitments have been made, which means $$$ have been exchanged, and at the end of the day, the products need to be sold to you…preferably at a profit.

Tula Pink is going live today at 2 pm Central time on Facebook and Instagram (Feb. 13) to talk about the future of her fabrics.  We’ll all learn a bit about it then.

Update on Tula Pink fabric:

Her solids are already in the stores. Whatever is there is what’s there. All Stars will ship to stores.  De La Luna may or may not ship, but may transfer to whoever she partners with next.  She is planning to continue designing fabric and is weighing options with new distributors. (She has a great attitude, if you have a chance to see her response, be sure to look it up.)

As for the other designers, I’m sure they will each make decisions based on their own opportunities and interests.

Stay tuned!

You can read about the details of the shutdown here.